Jestico + Whiles completes key new learning centre for the University of Cambridge
A new building that offers co-working and social spaces, the West Hub marks the start of the transformation of the West Cambridge Site into a centre for innovation.
Design studio Brady Williams offers a fantastical vision of the Orient at new Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park restaurant, the Aubrey.
Words: Jenna Campbell
Photography: Steven Joyce
Following almost two years of disruption, London’s restaurant scene appears to have found its footing again, giving rise to a plethora of boundary-pushing concepts. Few F&B openings this year have been as anticipated as The Aubrey at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Taking over the space formerly occupied by Bar Boulud, The Aubrey – described as an eccentric Izakaya, an up market take on a Japanese pub or tavern – was launched in the capital, following its successful debut within Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong early last year.
The project marks the first UK venture for Maximal Concepts, the Hong Kong-based restaurant group behind much-loved Chinese restaurant collection Mott 32, who worked in collaboration with interior architecture and design studio Brady Williams to realise the interiors– which channel Japonisme, an artistic and aesthetic movement of the late 19th century.
“The brief was very much to take the narrative from Hong Kong but then to develop it into a bespoke concept and design for Mandarin Oriental London. I was not to be a roll-out – I liken it to the idea of it being a cousin as opposed to a twin sister,” reflects Shayne Brady, co-owner of Brady Williams Studio. “Combining Japonisme and quintessential Britishness was a smooth, fluid process. The original building was a gentlemen’s club, so what we wanted us to do as a team was imagine what those rooms would have been like then and how they may have evolved over time.”
Taking its name from British illustrator and author Aubrey Beardsley – who was inspired by Japanese woodcuts – the space nods to the artist’s decadent black ink drawings.
“Travel at the turn of the century meant huge influences from Asia (what I often refer to in the studio as Oriental feminism), which has an influence on all European design, therefore layering the Japanese influence felt appropriate as opposed to contrived,” says Brady. “Eccentricity has been brought through the layout, material choice and art, which at times is provocative and titillating.”
Situated beneath the hotel, doors open onto a labyrinth of velvet, marble and wood, setting the scene for five distinct drinking and dining spaces, beginning with the wood-panelled main bar. “From the outset we knew that as you walked through the street entrance the sound of the bar should entice you in,” notes Brady. “A large standing bar to allow customers to stand around was essential, but I am also obsessed with bar dining, so we designed it to have four individual ledges or individual tables so that if you are sat at the bar, you would feel special and elevated. Meanwhile, a custom drinking ledge in Verde Pavone marble allows for larger groups to congregate.”
From here, guests are invited to explore a series of interlinking rooms – the curio lounge, salon and library populated by furnishings and fixtures from the likes of 1st Dibs, Noble Russell and Elephant Road Studios– which are illuminated by the soft glow of ambient lighting, curated by lighting design consultant Tim Henderson of Atelier Lighting.
“The creation of the smaller individual rooms brings the entire design to life. Each room needed to feel as if it had been uncovered and then layered onto overtime,” explains Brady. “We added reclaimed fireplaces to both the curio lounge and the library to create a sense of heritage and a continuation of detailing. Warm Timber tones are the foundation stone to the entire design, on top of which sumptuous colour palettes have been added.”
The Aubrey is also home to the city’s first omakase bar, a hidden-away room that can be found just off from the library. Translated as, ‘I will leave it to you’, the bar’s concept is built around the Japanese tradition of letting a chef or bartender choose for you.
“Space was tight but we wanted it to feel truly Japanese in execution, therefore the beautiful custom bar allows for an intimate six to sit, while two-seat mini corner booths mean couples can soak up the atmosphere of the room,” notes Brady.
Set within the warm hues of gold, green, plum and pink that embellish the various spaces, artwork inspired by the elegance of the Japonisme movement features heavily. Likewise, the spaces’ intimate nooks and enclaves feature intricate and detailed murals created by artist Michael May, alongside detailed wall coverings by Phillip Jeffries and bespoke joinery from Edmonds.
“We worked really closely with Amy Walsh of Rock Paper Scissors,” adds Brady. “She created the most wonderful collection of art, print and accessories, which allowed for a really symbiotic expression of English Traditional art, portraits, Japanese prints, lithographs, exquisite vases and ornaments, all adding a layered aesthetic to what feels a curated home.”
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